The wife is always the last to know. And I was no exception. I was too confident, too secure in my marriage that I didn’t see that like any other marriage ours could also fail, and I didn’t know we had to work on it to keep it alive and keep it growing. I just assumed that after marriage people lived happily ever after; maybe I was influenced by all the love stories I read growing up where the hero and heroine overcame all the obstacles in their way and got married. We never knew what happened afterwards, and we didn’t care because the lovers were united and all was right with the world.
When I first heard that my husband was having an affair with one of his colleagues I didn’t believe it. This was Zamtea we were talking about, my best friend of more than twenty-five years, the person I knew better than anyone else. It was my sister who first told me about the affair, and we had a big argument because of it. She was very sure of it, she had heard about it from one of the students who lived in her neighbourhood, and I got mad at her for not believing in my marriage and listening to silly rumours. I even demanded to know the identity of the student who was spreading lies about my husband. “Zamtea had many female colleagues and cannot be blamed for having friends,” were my exact words.
Then I heard it from my neighbour, a busybody who poked her nose into everyone’s affair. I never believed anything she said, but when she spoke about my husband and his sudden interest in teaching and going to college the seed of doubt was planted in my mind. It was common knowledge that Zamtea wanted to quit teaching and become a professional photographer. But we had two small children, I didn’t work, money was tight, and giving up a good job was a risk we didn’t dare take.
One day my sister came visiting. It had been a month since our last discussion, and she came to my house to “shake some sense in to me.” I didn’t need any shaking. I had observed Zamtea for the past few weeks and noticed that he always came home late, took his phone wherever he went, was extra conscious about his appearance, and never talked about college anymore. We hadn’t made love in weeks; he would stay up late and I never knew when he’d come to bed. My two daughters kept me very busy, and most nights I was asleep by nine o’clock. My sister came prepared to fight, and was surprised by my easy surrender. She told me everything she knew; the girlfriend’s name was Mahriati, the affair had been going on for about five months now, and the whole college knew. She said they tried to hide it but there are some things you cannot hide.
I had my doubts, but turning those doubts into belief and then accepting them was harder than I imagined. The first emotion I felt was anger. How could he fall in love with another person? Was I not good enough for him? Did I not love him and was I not a good mother to his children? How could he do this do me? How dare he do this to me!
If my sister had not been with me that day I'm sure I would have packed my things and went off to my father’s house. I even tried to burn his clothes but my sister stopped me, physically held me down, and told me to act like an adult. I was not easy to calm down. Was I not Saihmingliani Sailo, descendant of a famous chief? My ancestors were known for their greatness and bravery, and was I just going to sit there and let a man cheat on me and make me look like a fool? How people would have laughed behind my back! How could I ever show my face in public again? Everywhere I go pity whispers would follow me. Now I would be forever known as the wife who drove her husband into some other woman’s arms.
The sight of my two daughters with their surprised and scared faces calmed me down. They had never seen me like this before. I was always hot tempered, but marriage had turned me into a gentler person and I didn’t remember shouting at them any time. I loved them more than anything else, and I wasn’t going to let them grow up without a father. People could make fun of me, but no one was going to hurt my babies, no one was going to laugh at them because their parents were divorced. I would fight to keep my husband, and I would fight to keep my marriage alive.
My sister offered to wait with me for Zamtea to come home, but I sent her home. This was between my husband and me, and although I appreciated her concern and would welcome her support I did not want her to be around. I was a grown woman, capable of sorting out her marital troubles.
Zamtea came home, and although I’d promised myself that I would not get angry, seeing him made me lose control again. I screamed and shouted at him until I ran out of words. He kept quiet and waited for me to finish, and when he spoke he was full of remorse. He didn’t deny anything, but said he would stop seeing her and would even try to move to a different college. I was prepared for war, and this time it was me who was surprised by his easy surrender.
I forgave him. After all, he was my husband, the father of my children, and I still loved him.